The Story of the Snake (Subject-Verb Agreement)

Hello everyone, I am Ms Joei and welcome back to another video. We’ll bet taking a look at subject-verb agreement today!

Many lower primary students struggle with subject verb agreement, which is important in creating a grammatically correct sentence. While it is easy to identify singular and plural subjects, some may have difficulties telling the difference between singular and plural verbs and often, I find that pupils get them mixed up when they answer questions testing agreement.

But don’t fret! Today I’m going to share with you a fun way to remember subject verb agreement especially if you’re still confused by it. I call it The Story of the ‘Verb Snake’! Let me first introduce a friend of mine, say hi to “Verb Snake”!

First of all, let me explain what subject verb agreement is. Simply put, the subject in the sentence needs to agree with the verb. So if the subject is singular – for instance ‘dog’ – then the verb that follows it needs to be singular too – for instance ‘barks’. So, the correct sentence is: The dog barks loudly. Conversely, a plural subject will only agree with a plural verb: The dogs bark loudly. It is incorrect to say ‘The dog bark loudly’ or ‘The dogs barks loudly’ since the subjects and verbs in each of these sentences do not agree with each other. Think of subjects and verbs as being friends and in order to get along, they need to agree!

The confusion arises when pupils confuse subjects with verbs. This is because to form plural subjects, we often need to add ‘s’ or ‘es’ at the back of singular subjects, such as from my earlier example: to form the plural subject ‘dogs’, we add ’s’ to ‘dog’. The case is the opposite for verbs: plural verbs often do not have an ’s’ added, for example ‘jump’, ‘dance’, ‘are’, ‘were’, ‘do’, and ‘have’, while singular verbs normally end with ’s’, such as ‘jumps’, ‘dances’, ‘is’, ‘was’, ‘does’, and ‘has’.

Let’s look at how it works by using the following examples:

Tom sings beautifully.

Tom is a singular subject, since Tom is one person. The ‘verb snake’ appears – imagine the letter s at the end of sings in the shape of a snake. The ‘verb snake’ is brave enough to attack Tom as he is alone. That’s why the verb that agrees with the subject Tom ends with an ’s’.

The children sing beautifully.

In this example, the children is a plural subject as there is more than one person. Since there are so many people, the Verb Snake is scared, and disappears. As such, the verb here does not end with an ’s’.

You sing beautifully. I sing beautifully.

How about ‘you’ and ‘I’? Why do we use the plural verb in this case? This is because ‘you’ and ‘I’ are special and have superpowers, so we scare away the verb snake and it runs away from us.

We can apply the same rule for helping verbs as well. To recap, helping verbs include verbs like has, have, do, does, is, are, was and were. Take a look at these examples:

Tom is eating.

Tom is a singular subject, so the verb snake appears to attack him.

The children are eating.

The children is a plural subject so the snake is scared and disappears.

You are eating. I am eating.

You and I have special powers which scare away the snake and the snake disappears.

However, do take note that the story of the snake mainly works for sentences in the present tense, and when you use the ‘be’ verbs in the past tense i.e. ‘was’ and ‘were’.

I hope this video is helpful in helping you remember subject verb agreement in a sentence. If you ever get confused, just apply the story of the snake! Till next time, take care!

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Ms Joei

Ms Joei had volunteered her time to teach basic English and Grammar to orphaned children in Phnom Penh, Cambodia when she was in Junior College. This life-changing and self-fulfilling experience made her discover her interest in teaching.

As a teacher, she believes that all children have the potential to do well, and different children would require different approaches to unlock their true potential. Ms Joei hopes to discover the suitable approaches for her students so that she can bring out the best in them!

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